Shanghai Television Fest to draw imports

Shanghai Media Group celebrates 50 years of TV

SHANGHAI -- More imported product will be featured at this month's Shanghai Television Festival as organizers the Shanghai Media Group look to extend the festival's influence and draw a greater overseas audience.

The U.K's ITV subsidiary, Granada, will showcase 150 new programs, including the archeological adventure drama "Bonekickers," James Ross, Granada's Hong Kong-based regional director, told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

"We are aware of the many differing requirements of national, provincial and city TV stations," said Ross, whose clients include SMG, its main competitor China Central Television and a host of provincial broadcasters.

Mateo Eaton, managing director of U.K. market consultancy MindShare in Shanghai, says that China's appetite for foreign and creative local broadcasters has piqued the interest of such big international advertisers as Unilever and Bausch & Lomb.

"Chinese broadcasters are coming to realize the importance and value of such diversification into higher caliber content and more and more deals are happening around the country," Eaton said. "The larger networks -- CCTV, SMG, Hunan -- can be found not only globetrotting at major TV fairs, but also sending staff to Europe and the U.S. to study broadcasting and communications."

Granada, for one, had success landing "Saturday Night Takeaway" on Hunan TV, the provincial broadcaster that a few years ago made a splash in Chinese entertainment TV with its "American Idol" knockoff "Super Girl Voice."

Over the last decade, widespread piracy in China has helped create a ready audience for imported TV, with shows including "The Wire" and "Mr. Bean" available on China's streets within weeks of their home country broadcasts.

However, not all is smooth when bringing imported TV into China, where censors' tastes run conservative.

Overseas distributors not only face a market that is "insanely competitive in terms of price," said Jeremy Goldkorn, Beijing-based editor of media-watching Web site, but also must deal with "government policy that is hostile to foreign content on Chinese TV stations."

The Shanghai Television Festival starts Monday and ends June 13.

Julia Poly in Shanghai contributed to this report.